Monday, August 15, 2022

writing for kids, the journey to publication, why writing for kids is not easy
                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo: Anita Jankovic 


Before the pandemic, Baxter's Corner had expressed interest in publishing my children's book titled Tajo Speaks Out.  When I informed people of the news, some of them said, "Anyone can write a children's book.  Writing for kids is easy."   

Those of us who write for kids would strongly disagree.  And here's why.  Writing and publishing for children can be broken down into two parts:  the creative process and the submission process.  For the creative process a writer must develop a manuscript that 
is about 500 words, that allows for illustrations, and that centers around a theme relatable to young kids.  It must be engaging, marketable, and revised multiple times.    

The submission process is every bit as arduous.  A writer must compose a professional query letter and research agents that are open to picture book submissions.  Submitting to an agent doesn't guarantee an acceptance.  It can take years to find an agent.  On top of that, if a writer signs with an agent, the agent must submit the work to publishers.  The whole process, from initial idea to publishing a book can take up to two years.  

Since I had met the publisher of Baxter's Corner, I could skip the submission process.  But creating that book wasn't a walk in the park.  There were tight guidelines.  Specifically, I had to choose an animal character the company had developed and assign a moral value to this character.  Okay you say, select a character and the value and get on with writing the story.  But it wasn't that simple.  
Photo: Johnny McClung 

Before the first word of the story could be written, I was asked to develop the objectives.  This involved describing the character's problem, the rising conflict, the solution, and the resolution.*  After writing the objectives, I sent them to the publisher and she discussed them with her team of consultants.  When everyone made their assessment, the publisher sent me their suggestions. Then publisher and I went back and forth many times over many months to polish the objectives.    

Once this step was nailed, I got the green light to write the story.  Here's the catch:  Baxter Corner books are written in rhyming couplets, but the rhymes could not be repeated.  Also, the meter or beats (syllables) had to be even so that the story wouldn't sound forced or choppy when read aloud.  I checked to make sure the rhyming was smooth and then moved on to the next phase of the process.  

My beta reader critiqued Tajo.  After implementing his suggestions, I sent the story to the publisher so she and her team could study it.  The draft was heavily criticized and returned to me for more revision.  I tweaked the story and I sent it to the publishing staff so they could review it again.  After I made some minor changes, the team approved the final version and it was ready to be professionally edited and illustrated.  Finally, this project was getting closer to publication.  

And then...COVID hit.  As the pandemic raged, the market changed, the focus of Baxter's Corner shifted, and Tajo was put on the back burner.   

This outcome was not a surprise to me.  I sensed the direction Baxter's Corner was taking on Facebook. The company had been making posts about the themes in its upcoming books—themes which varied greatly from Tajo.  So, when the publisher called to tell me my book had been shelved, I was prepared for the heart-breaking news.  Still, this setback sucked. would not defeat me. 

I will move forward and use this experience to become a better writer.  A stronger, more resilient person.  Undaunted.  I will write in spite of rejections or the shifts in the market.  I will write in spite of the notion people say it's easy.  There will always be disappointments, setbacks and ignorance.  And spite of it all, I will write for kids.    

✌ and 

* Jotting down the objectives is a great exercise and it can help in developing the structure of your story.